WALL-E Anyone?

Remember WALL-E? Remember all the people in space who had lost the ability to move about without their floating chairs? Check it out!

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Giant Cannibal Shrimp?

So, I’ve been reading stories like this for the past few days about the gargantuan monster tiger prawns that are invading U.S. waters. I think the story would be a lot better if these giant cannibal shrimp were the result of some horrible nuclear accident, but apparently they are just invasives from Asia.

I don’t know what to make of this, but I definitely appreciate the perspective that Ann Althouse brings to the story. Hey, if an invasive is edible, and more importantly, tasty, then eat it. Create a market. Go to town.

But I know firsthand the other side of the story. I worked at a national park where we spent an unbelievable amount of resources trying to prevent an infestation of Zebra mussels. And I lived back east when the dreaded snakehead fish made its first appearance. The real question is why our government keeps letting these things happen. I understand natural distribution of sea-farring species, but what about species imported for the exotic trades, like aquarium fish? Why do we allow this? Kudzu anyone?

The Synergies of Life

I’m not much of a Deep Ecologist, but I found this quote profound from the perspective of the interconnectedness of all life:

“When you go around the Earth in an hour and a half, you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing. That makes a change…it comes through to you so powerfully that you’re the sensing element for Man.” Schweikart, similar to what Mitchell experienced, describes intuitively sensing that everything is profoundly connected.

The quote is from a January 2010 article in The Daily Galaxy about spaceflight changing the human brain. The whole article is interesting, but it’s the first three paragraphs which gave me pause. Read it for yourself.

Cars and Bikes and Jerks

I just did a Google search on why good people turn into jerks when they get behind the wheel of their car. It’s a phenomenon I’ve been observing up close for a few years now as a regular bicycle commuter.

I do drive. I love road trips. I drive to fish and camp and ski and get across town. I’m cognizant of the fact that occasionally I start driving like a jerk too. I follow too close. I get impatient with slower drivers. And like everyone else I tend to believe I’m the best driver on the road, and the idiot in front of me must have purchased one of those rare vehicles that didn’t come with turn signals, because by God I always use mine!

But try commuting by bicycle. Just for a few weeks, and see what you think of your fellow driving commuters. I don’t bike to feel superior, or to be a smug asshole. I’m not saving the planet or lessening my carbon footprint. I do it because somewhere deep inside me is a puritanical ethic that tells me it’s just wrong to drive to work when it’s only 2 ¼ miles away, and the bike ride will take me only a few minutes longer than the drive. Plus, there’s no parking at the office. And frankly, I need a little extra exercise. But besides all that, I like riding my bike, and really enjoy my morning commute.

Except for all the jerky drivers. And this brings me to my point. These are good people. This is a good town. People here support bike trails. They fund the local bus commuter system. Hell, nearly everyone in this town owns a bike. So why are all the car commuters on their phone while driving half way into the bike lane at 10 miles over the posted speed limit? The automobile brought to the average American a freedom unrivaled in history. But did it also turn him into a jerk?

EPA Backpedals on Fracking Findings

This story does not suprise me in the least. The Wall Street Journal today is reporting that the EPA has dropped a claim against Range Resources over contaminated drinking water wells in Texas, contamination that the EPA originally attributed to natural gas hydrofracturing, or “fracking”. Turns out that this is the third time that the EPA has had to backtrack on claims that linked fracking to pollution of ground water. If you have paid any attention to the fracking debate, then you know that this is a big deal and yet another blow to the EPA’s credibility. Suprised? Don’t be. The EPA is a bureaucracy. It is subject to the same political pressures as other institutions that are run by political appointees and pressured by special interest groups. We’re not always going to get the best decisions, the best science, or the best outcomes.

Wind Power Under Assault, Maybe Rightly So?

I’ve been noticing more and more stories, particularly coming out of Europe, regarding the problems with wind energy and industrial-scale wind farms. Here’s a sample of the level of debate taking place across the pond on the British government’s wind energy policies. Today I noticed this NY Times blog post on a legal battle over the noise emitted by wind turbines. This seems to be a recurrent theme in complaints about wind farms: apparently, the low frequency humming emitted by the spinning rotors is driving people absolutely mad. It seems entirely possible to me that any device standing 300 feet in the air, spinning blades the size of the wing on a 747, may make more than a noticeable buzz, especially since wind turbines tend to be located in rural areas that generally experience low ambient background noise.

The Kids Are Not so Green After All

I missed this story the other day reporting on an analysis that finds young people really don’t care that much about the environment. Here’s a bit of it:

Mark Potosnak, an environmental science professor at DePaul University in Chicago, has noticed an increase in skepticism – or confusion – about climate change among his students as the national debate has heightened. That leads to fatigue, he said.

“It’s not so much that they don’t think it’s important. They’re just worn out,”

A lot of young people also simply don’t spend that much time exploring nature, said Beth Christensen, a professor who heads the environmental studies program at Adelphi University on New York’s Long Island.

When she attended Rutgers University in the 1980s, she said it was unusual to find a fellow student who hadn’t hiked and spent time in the woods.

“Now a lot of these students have very little experience with the unpaved world,” Christensen said.”

My view is that when we use the education system, cultural establishment, and government to beat people – especially young people – over the head with a message, like environmentalism, that they grow weary, suspicious, and immune to the effort. Maybe we should back off a little bit.